maternal wars

The Fitzpatrick family were sitting on the deck at Selati Camp, enjoying a scrumptious lunch looking out over the waterhole in front of the lodge. A herd of kudu moved along the river’s edge feeding away on the foliage without a care in the world and the setting could not have been more perfect. The warm winter sun scattered between the trees above as they started to dig into their meal.

lion cubs

Suddenly the serenity was broken and chaos erupted as kudu fled in all directions, barking alarm calls as they went. One loan agonising cry echoed through the river and across the bush sending the Fitzpatrick’s spinning around to see what was happening. They all jumped from the table in unison as they spotted the Nottins female leopard attached to the throat of a young male kudu. The kudu was kicking and squirming as the family stood on the deck of the lodge and watched the last of the life fade from the kudu. Adrenalin pumping, jaws dropped on the floor, the Fitzpatrick’s and the rest of the guests and staff watched on in awe as the drama slowed to a simmer.

Leopard in a tree

The leopard unclamped her jaws from the windpipe of the kudu and lay next to her prize, trying to catch her breath after the short struggle, her mouth now salivating at the prospect of the meal to come. She thought she had secured some food for her cubs but it was not to be. The gut-wrenching cry that the kudu had let out had caught more than just the attention of the guests.

lions drinking

A lioness from the Southern Pride had been lying quietly nursing her 3 cubs when the dinner bell resounded across the bush. She knew immediately that there was a potential free meal close by. She jumped to her feet, her cubs trying to hold onto her nipples. She gave a last instruction for her cubs to stay and quickly made her way in the direction of the distress calls.

lions drinking

Not 2 minutes after Nottins pulled down the kudu, the lioness rocked up on the scene and quickly chased the smaller leopard off the kill. Nottins retreated to the shade of a nearby tree with nothing to show for her efforts, as the lioness tucked into her stolen bounty. At afternoon tea, just before the departure of their afternoon safari, the guests watched on as the lioness ate her fill and then decided to assist her digestion with a drink from the waterhole. As she left, the leopard saw her opportunity and snuck in to try steal back what was rightfully hers, but the carcass was still too heavy. She quickly scoffed down as much meat as she could as the lioness lapped at the cool water.

lion cub running

The lioness licked the excess water from her lips and turned to head back to her meal. She slowly ambled across not expecting anything to be out of place but as she reached the verge of the river she heard crunching. She raised her head to see over the grass and saw the leopard feeding on her meal…she pounced over the grass and gave chase as the leopard bolted towards a nearby Jackalberry tree.

The dust from the leopard’s hard strides shot back towards the lioness as she tried to get away from the lioness that was now so close that she could feel the lioness’s breath on her tail. The leopard leapt forward, claws digging deep into the bark as she scaled the tree with the lioness climbing right behind her. As she reached the top of the tree she looked back down to see the lioness halfway down the tree. The lioness had not pursued any further as the smaller branches would have given way under her heavier body. The lioness retreated back down and made her way back to the kill to enjoy the rest of her lunch.

The next morning the Fitzpatrick’s left their suite, ready for a cup of coffee and to inspect what had happened through the night. The leopard had left the tree but there was another surprise. The lioness had gone to fetch her cubs from their den and brought them back to get some protein. The three cubs were not the only new visitors as 2 hyenas lurked a short distance away hoping to score a free meal too.

lion cub playing

Eventually the hyenas left and the lioness again went to the waterhole to quench her thirst, followed closely by her 3 cubs. The small family lined up next to one another and drank from the watering hole. Once they had finished the mother led the little ones back to the carcass and the Fitzpatrick’s left to go explore the rest of the reserve. I would like to thank the Fitzpatrick’s for sharing their video of the ordeal with us.

by: Richard de Gouveia (Little Bush Camp ranger)


  1. syl says

    Ahh…great way to wake up…thanks for a great blog.
    Please thank the Fitzpatrick family for sharing their video.

  2. sheila says

    Always a treat reading your blog, Richard. I’m glad that the Nottins leopard was able to get a few good bites of her kill, and that she was able to retreat to the tree before the Southern girl got to her. Loved the video of the lion cubs too. I only wish it was longer but appreciate what I get, lol. Thank you to you and your guests for the great videos and photos.

  3. terry says

    A big thank you to the Fitzpatrick’s for the amazing photos and video! Thank you Richard for posting and the terrific commentary. Caught myself holding my breath it was so exciting. Thanks again!

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